Australian Whistleblower Faces Jail under Computer Crimes Act

    New Matilda.com reports that a 20-year-old Australian whistleblower faces jail for exposing a scholarship of Francis Abbott, the Prime Minister’s daughter.

    In June, New Matilda, as well as the Guardian, revealed the Prime Minister’s daughter had received a $60,000 scholarship to study at a Sydney based college.

    The scholarship was kept secret from Frances Abbott’s teachers and fellow students, had only been given once before, and was allegedly offered after only one meeting between Frances Abbott and a family friend, the institute’s founder and managing director, Leanne Whitehouse.

    A student and former librarian, Freya Newman, is accused of breaching Section 308H of the NSW Crimes Act, which bans ‘unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data held in a computer’.

    It’s not clear whether Newman was the leaker who outed Frances Abbott’s scholarship to the media. But as she works in a private sector college, she would not be covered by even the ridiculously ineffective and punitive Public Interest Disclosure Act. Unprotected by legislation, with the power of the Prime Minister’s office, the police, the College and the right wing press against her, her case may further weaken the resolve of journalists and their sources to expose wrong-doing.

    Freya Newman has been subjected to attacks and smears by the biggest right wing national newspaper, Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian. But the campaign seems to be backfiring. Student organisations from other universities have offered financial support to Newman as an act of solidarity and a Facebook page has launched and an online petition with two thousand names has started at Change.org.

    The trial starts in mid September.